Social Media

Facebook Ad Placements: How Do They Compare & Which Perform Best?

Which Facebook Ad placements drive the highest return? We asked a few dozen paid marketers to weigh in. Here’s what we learned.

Elise Dopson Elise Dopson on April 7, 2020 (last modified on April 6, 2020) • 10 minute read

It’s easy to get caught up in the ad creative.

You’ve got images to create, copy to write, and audiences to target.

But one thing you might not be spending enough time on is the actual placement of your ads––the location where your advertisement will appear on Facebook or Instagram’s platform.

It’s one of the most important things to consider as Cassandra Leite of New England Foundation Crack Repair explains: “Ad placement is critically important to the outcome of the campaign.”

“Placement and success will depend on factors such as the goal of the campaign (i.e. more site traffic, more conversions, engagement, etc.). In order to reach your target, you have to put the information here they will likely be.”

More than 60% of experts agree with Leite:

The Best Facebook Ad Placements

You can set the placements for your Facebook campaign when editing or creating your Ad Set:

The default setting is “recommended placements.” Facebook will run its own tests and determine the best place to show your ads.

But we wanted to find out if certain advertising placements generated a better ROI than others from the off-set, rather than waiting for Facebook to find out.

So, we asked 25 experts to share the placements that work best for their business:

  1. News Feed
  2. Mobile News Feed
  3. Facebook and Instagram Feeds
  4. Instagram-only Placements
  5. In-Stream Video Ads
  6. Sidebar Ads
  7. Boosted Posts
  8. Automatic Placements
  9. All Placements

*Editor’s note: Before we dive in, it’s good to get a rough understanding of how your Facebook campaigns are performing. Grab our Facebook Ads Campaign Performance, which will pull data from your account and show your most important metrics on one screen:

1. News Feed

“The News Feed placement is the best way to make sure your ad is getting in front of a captive audience,” according to Andrew Schutt of Schutt Media. “Other placements are frequently off to the side and are easier to go unnoticed. With the news feed, you know your audience is actually going to see it.”

James Robinson of Iconic Genius thinks this placement is the most effective because “it’s native, and the ad goes directly to their feed. Which is where 90% of the user’s attention is.”

David Denning of Jumpstart Go agrees: “While there are many options now, we still find that the Facebook News Feed placement performs best for the lowest cost per lead. The other ad placements (including other channels such as Instagram) are improving and offer additional opportunities, but still don’t beat out the Facebook News Feed.”

Beth Cooper of KNB Communications explains why they’re so effective: “If you create a 1:1 image (example 1000 pixels X 1000 pixels), then it takes up a large amount of space in the newsfeed and is hard to ignore.”

“Since they are focusing more and scrolling through looking for interesting posts, newsfeed ads tend to have more engagement. Most of the time we will not show our ads in any other placement except the News Feed on both platforms.”

Plus, AlltimePower‘s Aaron Luther adds that this works especially well for specific audience groups: “We typically target an older demographic and these users are spending most of their time scrolling their News Feed.”

But even if this is your main advertising placement, TakeFunnels‘ Brendan Hal says: “The downside is that the Facebook News Feed is the most expensive place to advertise and it continues to get more expensive. For this reason, we’ve started to create ads optimized specifically for cheaper placements like native, in-article and search.”

Related: How Much Do Facebook Ads Really Cost? (And 8 Ways to Maximize Ad Spend)

2. Mobile News Feed

“For most businesses, the mobile newsfeed placement on Facebook outperforms nearly all other ad placements every time,” says The Digital Gal‘s Amanda Robinson.

“Occasionally another placement such as Instant Articles will start to outperform the mobile newsfeed, but the quality of the results coming from other placements are hard to compete and compare to the success that comes from the mobile newsfeed.”

“One thing to keep in mind is that the competition on the mobile newsfeed placement can slightly increase your ad costs, but the ROAS (return on ad spend) is worth it.”

You can do this by changing the Device settings above the audience placement breakdown:

Bodmek Digitals‘ Omedaro Bodmek agrees: “In my experience running Facebook Ad, mobile placement works best because it seems most people access their Facebook account mostly via mobile especially with the advent of smartphones.”

Alistair Dodds of Ever Increasing Circles adds that the mobile News Feed “consistently performs better than any other placement. With the right level of engaging, eye-catching content, you can drive significant interest to your designated offer.”

3. Facebook and Instagram Placements

“In the current trend, one of the most engaged ad placement is stories feed placement in both Facebook and Instagram,” says Manny Fernandez of OurZones.com.

“The reason is that approx. 85 users from 100 like to see or watch the stories in their feed and this is the section that you can use most of for your business. Another factor is the ratio of getting engaged from the stories is more likely higher than the other placements.”

BarkleyREI‘s Alan Gruntz agrees: “The placements I see the best results in are using Facebook and Instagram together. Using Facebook and Instagram concurrently allows the algorithm to deliver my ad to the right audience at the cheapest cost.”

4. Instagram-Only Placements

“From all Facebook Ad Placements (Instagram, Audience Network, Facebook, Messenger) Instagram is the best choice for those who want to achieve a positive ROI,” according to Bernadett Dioszegi of Bannersnack.

“Over ⅓ of Instagram users have used Instagram to purchase a product or service online. Instagram is a visual platform, there are fewer distractions as on Facebook are, so users will be more likely to remember your brand and offers and also to engage with your content.”

“All you need is a creative visual and a very concise, short and benefit-focused text to go well with.”

Jamie-Lee Kay adds that for The Other Straw, “Instagram Feed placements provide the best results in terms of cost, ROI and engagement. It’s essential to use visual content that is targeted towards your target audience.”

Sam Lepak of Galactic Fed also says: “We find [Instagram] Stories placements to be effective for mobile app installs and lead generation / sign-ups — smaller commitments.”

5. In-Stream Video Ads

“Most people don’t like ads so they tend to skip over them which is exactly why in-stream ads are perfect,” says Stephanie Lane of Safe Space Hub.

“Although users may not like having their content interrupted, their attention is focused on the video stream so you don’t need to compete with distractions and scrolling away.”

“In practice, in-stream video ads offer great conversions because they offer great engagement and that’s what a good ad is all about. Nevertheless, this approach only works if the user is committed to watching the video.”

Lane adds: “Overall, many people watching videos on Facebook will watch the ad which will inevitably lead to more conversions.”

Related: 16 Ways for Improving Facebook Video Watch Time for Every Video You Promote

6. Sidebar Ads

“In my experience, sidebar placements work best because I try to make my ads super targeted and relevant; so that the person reading feels guilty not to click as if they’re depriving themselves of something good for them,” writes Nikola Roza.

“I think it varies between Facebook users. Some folks are more receptive to ads, and some are almost disgusted to see commercials in places where they expect to see updates from their close ones, their friends and family.

“Sidebar ads have no such problems because people are trained to recognize ads in the right sidebar. And then, if your ad is compelling and you target the right people. then you can expect to get clicks.”

7. Boosted Posts

“Our highest-performing Facebook Ads are simply boosted posts, which show in the News Feed,” says Jeremy Cross of Team Building Texas.

“There are many factors to consider when boosting posts effectively, like which audience to target, duration and how much to spend. We’ve had the most success by targeting “one niche deeper” which allows us to reach a very specific audience, and using a 1:1 rule, which means we add $1 of boost spend for every one organic share the post has.”

“These guidelines produce results from boosted content that exceed regular ad spends,” Cross adds.

*Editor’s note: Boosted Posts are a great way to reach the audience you’ve already worked hard to build. Our Audience Building and Brand Awareness dashboard shows the engagement you’re getting on these posts and your most popular ads, compared to the amount you’ve spent:

8. Automatic Placements

Earlier, we mentioned that Facebook’s default setting is to run automatic placements–where they choose the placements for you.

Christina Hunt of Haus von Albe recommends to “always go with automatic placement – it exists for a reason. Allow the Facebook Ad algorithm to work for you. It’ll take the demographics of the ad and put them into the most applicable and cost-effective placement for those demographics.”

“It’s important to note that even if you don’t have an Instagram profile, your ads can (and will if applicable) be shown on Instagram and link to your website or Facebook profile.”

9. All Placements

We’ve talked about the individual Facebook and Instagram advertising placements that you can pick from.

But you might be left with one question: Why not use them all?

It’s something recommended by Gabe Solberg of EasyAutoTagging because “the algorithm can produce more conversions with all placements selected because having all placements selected provides more data for the system to find the people (not placements) most likely to convert.”

“To do this correctly two things need to change:

  1. Stop trying to hack the system rather focus on producing stellar creative, messaging and landing pages.
  2. Make sure you are tracking your key conversion with standard or custom conversions and that you always use the conversion objective for Facebook campaigns.”

Side note: It’s worth mentioning that by setting All Placements, you might be wasting money on placements that aren’t performing well. However, it’s a good place to start.

How to find your best ad placement

Brian Jensen of Congruent Digital argues that there is no blanket ad placement you can label as the best because “it really depends on the goal of your campaigns.”

“While advertising across all of Facebook’s placement options may be a good option to increase awareness or reach, in our experience, Facebook News Feed typically performs best for Traffic, Engagement and Messages.”

“With that being said, what works for one industry or client may not work for another which makes testing imperative. Take time to review your charts and look at what placements are driving results,” Jensen continues.

Dorian Reeves of SH1FT agrees: “The number one rule of Facebook ads is that you have to test all placements and then optimize based on the results you observe.”

Sherrilynne Starkie explains: “For example, if you are trying to raise awareness of a public advocacy issue, placing video ads on audience network is impactful and cost-effective. If the goal is to sell a fashion product, then Instagram placements can really work well.”

Jackie Kossoff also adds: “Placement choices depend on a few factors. First, if your audience uses mobile exclusively, make sure you specify only mobile devices/placements.”

“Second, it’s important to understand that some placements have higher conversion rates (this can also differ by business, industry, etc.). However, it can sometimes be beneficial to keep these placements because your overall reach will be higher. That means there are more people who may see your ad a second time, in a different placement, and choose to click/convert at that time.”

Related: 30+ Tips for Organized, Actionable Facebook Ads Dashboards

Final Thoughts

The Facebook and Instagram ad placements we’ve shared above are generally regarded as the best. They position your ad where most people are looking.

However, as our experts mentioned, the best way to find your perfect placement is through testing.

Run your campaigns as normal, then look at the breakdown of your ad performance. Does a specific placement generate better results than the others?

About the author
Elise Dopson
Elise Dopson Elise Dopson is a freelance B2B writer for SaaS and marketing companies. With a focus on data-driven ideas that truly provide value, she helps brands to get noticed online--and drive targeted website visitors that transform into raving fans.
You may also like...
Read more

15 Proven Ways for Lowering Your Cost Per Lead from Facebook Ads

Leads are important. But, the cost of those leads is of equal importance. We polled 54 marketers to find out the best ways for lowering your cost per lead.

  |  Mar 24

Read more

22 Tips for Building Meaningful Social Media Dashboards from All Networks

More than 40 marketers share their best tips for building a social media dashboard that pulls all of your insights in one place.

  |  Mar 4

Read more

16 Ways To Measure Social Media Engagement Using Only Google Analytics

How many customers come from social media? What type of content (text, image, video) perform best? Here’s how to find those answers in Google Analytics.

  |  Dec 30 2019